Can we schedule a rain delay more often?
After a long rain delay, the Cubs offense caught on fire. Finally. And even got a few (lots) of hits with men in scoring position. 7-for-13 with RISP? Can I get a Hallelujah?
Enough runs to survive another rocky bullpen outing. Production from the entire lineup. Garza survived the rain to pitch very well. Castro returned from his mini-vacation. Pena remembered that not all at-bats must end in a HR, K or BB. It’s fine to hit a single or double every once in a while. Especially with men on base. Quade didn’t try to get just one more inning out of a starter, and allowed the relief pitcher to start a fresh inning.
Hallelujah. A Good Day At Wrigley.
Oh, and I promised not to talk about the future plans of He Who Shall Not Be Named until the season is over. You’re welcome.
If the Cubs bats don’t look hot again today, I’ll be the guy standing on the roof at Wrigley, dumping buckets of water on the home plate umpire.
The sun’ll come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun!
But can we have rain again today?
The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!
Hmm, I mean, the Redlegs and Redbirds are coming!
The Cubs bid adieu to the West Coast, and settle in for a hectic month. Lots of home games. Lots of division games. The defending World Series Champions. A trip to Fenway.
And to start it all off… a Reds/Cardinals/Giants homestand. Very, very tough.
In April, it was easy to say that it’s early, there’s plenty of time left in the season. And there is. But this is a month to take advantage of. Win series at home. Get back above .500. Make sure that the division rivals lose a few games.
The rotation is starting to hit its stride. The bats are heating up.
Garza starts us off after setting a Cubs record for most strikeouts in an April (51!).
It’s time to recap April, locate those kernels of hope, drink the blue kool-aid and look forward to May! Woooooooo! May!
After a rough start, the Cardinals promenaded their way back to the top of the division, with the rest of the teams mired in the mud within a few games of the .500 Reds. The Cubs? Right about where most people expected them to be. I was hoping for better, but there are plenty of reasons why a 12-14 record in April is exciting…
- The Starting Pitching has not been good. Not good at all.
What was hoped to be a strength struggled through the monsoons of April, the injuries to Cash and Wells, and the disappearance of Dempster. The Cubs rank dead last in the NL in quality starts (it’s not even close), team ERA, and walks issued. Garza and Big Z have 7 of the 8 quality starts. The Cubs still managed to win 12 games.
- The Bullpen was a little bit Dr. Jeckyll and a little bit Mr. Hyde.
Marmol, Marshall and Wood have been very, very good. Samardzija has been shockingly useful. It’s almost as if he realized this is the last year the Cubs are going to be paying him. The rest have been up and down and up and down. Although, with even a little bit of starting pitching, the Cubs won’t depend on them nearly as much. Despite the ups and downs, and the fan-favorite All-Bullpen Days, the Cubs still won 12 games.
- The Offense has mainly consisted of Castro, Barney and Soriano.
Zambrano is tied for THIRD on the team in homeruns with 1. Soriano has almost as many homeruns as the REST OF THE TEAM COMBINED (10 of 21 total). Barney has more RBI than Ramirez (14 – 11). Pena is SOMEHOW hitting worse than last year. Unsurprisingly, the Cubs are 12th in the NL in runs scored. The Cubs still won 12 games.
- The Cubs do not lead the league in Antidefense, but they’re close.
Not every Cub feat of antidefense shows up in the errors column. Thankfully. There have been enough botched run-downs, missed bunt assignments, dropped fly-balls (it’s not just a south-side disease), Dunston like throws to first base, throws to the wrong base, and pigeon attacks in the outfield – to lose a few close ones. The Cubs still won 12 games.
- Quade is learning on the job.
Early in the year, I admonished Cub fans to trust in the Quade. I’ll stick to that. He IS getting better. The Quade is sticking with a struggling and/or tiring starter less often (trying to squeeze that ONE more inning out of a pitcher is almost always a big bucket of Fail when facing major league hitters). Heck, he even got thrown out of a game for the first time. And then promptly admitted being wrong for arguing (after seeing the replay). Despite some puzzling batting orders (always overplayed in the media), and lack of Tweeting from the clubhouse… the Cubs still won 12 games.
The Cubs have hit just well enough to hand off some leads to the three headed monster in the back of the bullpen. And that is enough to go 12-14. Despite a lot of room for improvement.
So I’m proudly drinking the Blue Kool-Aid out of a glass that looks half full. 3.5 games back after significantly under-performing for the month? Sign me up.
Now, bring on May. Cardinals and Reds at Wrigley? First road-trip to Fenway?
This is the Month!
Thank goodness for the Blackhawks.
Well then. In the spirit of optimism, I will balance the bad with the good from last night’s Comedy of Errors.
Bad: Castro makes an error in the top of the second inning.
Good: Darwin Ryno Barney homers in the bottom of the first to give the Cubs a lead.
Bad: Castro makes a second error in the top of the second inning, leading to the first Rockie run.
Good: Garza pitching 6 innings: 1 ER, 3 H, 0 HR, 1 BB, 7 K
Bad: Castro makes his third error in the top of the second inning, allowing two more runs to score.
Good: With men on base in the first inning, Carlos Pena did not strike out… he walked… (I’ll do optimism, but I can’t promise to leave out the sarcasm)
Bad: With the bases loaded in the third and two out, Garza grounds out. Not your fault Garzy, we don’t pay you to hit. But it still sucks.
Good: Jeff Baker went 3-4 as the unlikely cleanup hitter.
Bad: Castro went 0-5 in the three hole. He’ll be fine, but it’s hard to argue with the notion that he hits better in the leadoff spot.
Good: Fukudome went 5-5 in the leadoff spot. Damn it, only one of you can lead off, someone has to hit third behind Sandberg.
Bad: Garza makes a throwing error in the fifth, leading to the Rockies fourth consecutive unearned run.
Good: Garza picks off Tulowitzki to end the fifth inning.
Bad: Pena strikes out with two men on base to end the fourth inning.
Good: The much maligned Samardzija (frequently by me) pitched two scoreless innings. And didn’t walk anyone.
Bad: With two men on and two out in the sixth inning, Baker strikes out.
Good: Reed Johnson channels his inner Craig Biggio with the patented ‘pretend to turn away from the inside fastball but don’t actually back away – causing the arm to move directly into the path of the pitch’ move, drawing a HBP. It needs a catchier name, but I like the results.
Bad: Cubs score only three runs, despite plenty of chances.
Good: Cubs pitchers only gave up one earned run.
Bonus Bad: Cubs defense gave up four unearned runs.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
Well, it’s April. And the field was wet (apparently only when we were on defense). I’m not worried about it. The boys will bounce back today.
Oh look! The Blackhawks play again tonight… Thank goodness.
Sometimes, during the course of a 162 game season, you’re going to have days where you feel you should have won but didn’t. Frustrating and Maddening days. When they happen, all you can do is try and remember days like yesterday – when you get a win you probably didn’t earn.
I had to triple check this morning that the Cubs split the double-header yesterday – because I wasn’t entirely sure after listening to the games yesterday. Garza pitched well until his last inning – when he decided to make things interesting. Both teams attempted to give the game to the other team. However, between Garza and the bullpen, the Cubs walked 9 batters from the 6th inning on. Holy Cow. The Padres couldn’t have been very happy, they were given many, many opportunities to take the lead and bring in the highly skilled Heath Bell. The Pads got enough hitting to win game two – which was a pretty good game, considering the Quade Bullpen Special was starting just an hour after an extra-innings affair.
The Padres have OUTSTANDING pitching and RIDICULOUS speed, more than enough to keep them in each and every game. I’m pretty confident that they’ll get enough hitting from this lineup to contend. They can’t all continue to slump for the entire year. Of course that’s what I thought last year about the Cubs, but I digress. I’ve seen way too much of Ludwick in the division – I KNOW he’ll turn it around. And he started in game 2.
The Cubs were extremely fortunate to come away with a series victory – thanks to Reed Johnson coming out of nowhere to hit a walk off homerun in the 11th. A timely contribution from an unlikely source. Good times. Reeeeeeeeeeed!
Some other good notes – Garza pitched 5 excellent innings. Soto cut down 4 of 5 runners in the second game (after waving them through the turnstiles in the first game), and pitchers in the bullpen not named Samardzija pitched relatively well – throwing strikes.
Don’t look now, but there is a four car pileup in the Central. With two more cars looking to join the mayhem. A four way tie for first… at 9-9. With two more teams within two games. Yikes. We’ve played some up and down baseball, but we’re right in this thing. And most importantly – a series win is a series win.
Bring on the Dodgers!
A Day-Night doubleheader in the Frozen Confines today! Hopefully they can get both games in.
Garza, from SoCal by way of Tampa (and Minnesota to be fair) will start the first game, before the temperatures dip even further… and the Quade bullpen special will start the second game. Russell, a Texas native, who had an extremely odd outing in his first major league start, will get his chance at redemption – in the freezing night game. Tough luck kid. We’re rooting for you (even if you don’t see too many brave Inuit in the stands).
Holy crap, Q. Where’s the Canadian Dempster?
Should be a long, cold, EXCITING day!
Let’s make this the last day of the season we aren’t above .500. Wooooooooo!
The best thing I can say about last night is Chacin helped out my fantasy team…
Well, that’s not true. Other than one inning, where he fell behind the hitters, Garza pitched well. Aramis is starting to heat up, which may be the single most important factor for the Cubs season. And the bullpen was outstanding. For those worried about the Cubs signing of a couple of journeyman starters to minor league contracts this week… this is why. Russell and Samardzjia are pitching well in relief, and are probably best there.
Castro’s error allowed another run to score on a bases clearing triple, but by then the damage was already done. If you don’t take a second to square up the body before the throw you end up pulling a Dunston. But I don’t want to rag on Castro’s defense, which is MUCH improved so far this year. That’s just another thing to work on. No big deal. Any offense by a player not named Ramirez, and one mulligan pitch for Garza… and this would have been a game. C’est la vie.
Sometimes, you just have to tip your cap to a superior team. The Rockies are simply the class of the NL at this point (with the Reds and Phils pretty close behind). Chacin is a bona fide stud, and their offense is going to rough up most pitchers.
This offense is going to be a bit dependent on the long ball, lacking speed and contact hitters (other than Castro, and now Barney/Baker). Sooner or later, hopefully, the home runs increase. And the starters avoid that ONE bad inning they all keep giving up…
And of course… looking for a pick me up, I rolled from the Cubs game right to the Hawks game. Ouch.